Syrian regime forces pushed further into the Idlib region, which is largely controlled by Tahrir al-Sham, on Wednesday (August 14th), inching towards a key town after months of deadly bombardment, AFP reported.
In the southern part of the province, almost all residents of Khan Sheikhun, which lies on a key highway coveted by the regime, have left the town.
The highway runs through Idlib, connecting regime-held Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, which was retaken by the regime and its allies in December 2016.
After a week of ground advances, regime forces were just a few kilometres away from the town on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"Regime forces are now four kilometres from Khan Sheikhun to the west, with nothing between them and it but fields," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
To the east, pro-regime fighters are battling to control a hill just six kilometres from the town, he said.
Clashes on Wednesday killed 14 regime soldiers, as well as 20 extremists and seven allied fighters, he said.
Fighting in southern Idlib and rural Latakia on Tuesday claimed the lives of 29 pro-regime fighters as well as 30 extremists and their allies, the Observatory said.
Also on Tuesday, airstrikes killed six civilians in southern Idlib, including three in the town of Khan Sheikhun, the Observatory added.
AFP correspondents reported seeing dozens of families flee fighting over the past few days, heading north in trucks piled high with belongings.